Archive | July 2015

Cecil the lion

Why has Cecil the Zimbabwe lion’s death stirred such an emotional outcry when children are tortured in Syria? Immigrants seeking relief from lethal bombing and grinding poverty drown in rickety boats crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Women are savagely raped during tribal conflicts. Blustery prime ministers flout world opinion as well as the rule of law and continue to impede the peace process. Mass killings seem the norm. It seems that we’ve become inured to abject suffering, sorrow and even death on a daily basis. Yet a lion, a beloved old lion, killed then be-headed by a wealthy White American hunter and left to rot in the searing African sun has drawn world-wide outrage as well as empathy. How come we grieve for an animal but seem to lack the same will to push for peace?

Cecil’s merciless death tugs at our hearts because of why and how he died. A ferocious lion? No, Cecil wasn’t on the prowl to attack humans. Most lions don’t bother humans. Rather, he was in a protected area, a national preserve, just being a lion. Actually, he was studied by a major university as part of an endangered species project. The real culprits? Greed, power, arrogance, bloated male ego and a local economy in shambles. Two local Zimbabweans, desperate for money, lured Cecil out of a safe zone so he could become the next prized trophy of Dr. Walter Palmer, a dentist and avowed hunter who kills big game animals, some endangered, just for the thrill. What’s the purpose of trophy hunting? Mostly rich, affluent White men and a few women, pay large sums of money to hunt and kill wild animals, some on the endangered species list, and then chop off their heads. The heads hang in their homes or offices to show off their bravado or to sicken their guests. Appealing? Perhaps to some. To me, it’s disgusting, revolting and a brutal way to end a harmless animal’s life. What wrong had Cecil caused Dr. Palmer? None that I heard of. Rhinos, lions, tigers, elephants and others need protection from human hunters like Dr. Palmer. In some cases, wild animals already have been hunted to extinction or near extinction. Others are on the verge of being wiped out such as the black rhino. These animals are of little or no threat to us. Rather, their lives are in imminent danger because of selfish human activity. Man is the cruelest of all animals.

Cecil, I’m sorry that a dastardly dentist named Walter Palmer wasted his money to kill you. He could’ve directed that money to provide dental care to poor children in his area or donated it to a public school. Think of how many textbooks that money could have purchased. Or he could have shared the funds with wildlife causes in Africa. Instead, he squandered it by ending your precious life. You deserved better. We all deserve better than a small man like Walter Palmer. I hope your death, Cecil, will help us change the world so warped, egotistical people like Walter Palmer will think twice about killing innocents and the door opens to a kinder, gentler world for us all. That would be a fantastic legacy to leave behind. Rest in peace Cecil.



No one needs a nuclear weapon

No one needs a nuclear bomb, not Iran, not Israel (we know you’re in the club), the US, the UK, France, Russia, North Korea, Pakistan, India, etc. A nuclear war is both unthinkable as well as un-winnable. Today’s weapons are at least 100 times more deadly, more devastating, than the nuclear bombs that leveled the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945 at the end of WW II. Was there another way to stop the bloody war besides massive death and destruction and opening up a dangerous arms race? Some say yes, some say no. We’ll never really know.

A massive fireball rolled through Hiroshima neighborhoods burning everything and everyone in its path. The city was obliterated within seconds. Buildings that survived collapsed into piles of twisted metal and splintered wood. The acrid smell of burning flesh was nauseating. A giant mushroom cloud of radiation killed tens of thousands right away. Some were incinerated into ashes. Other melted like hot wax on a burning candle. Dead bodies of humans and animals piled on top of each other in the streets. The injured endured nightmarish burns and radiation sickness. Almost all doctors and nurses were killed. Hospitals that withstood the lethal inferno were over-run with frightened survivors desperate for help. Food and water not destroyed by the blast were contaminated. Darkness enveloped the city from the nuclear fallout as well as the destruction of infrastructure. There was chilling silence among the total breakdown of their civilized world. Dazed survivors sat amidst the ruins wondering who brought on this hell. Three days later the people of Nagasaki faced the same deadly anguish, pain and suffering. The US dropped yet another nuclear bomb and Japan surrendered. The war ended, but at what staggering cost?

Nuclear weapons are the most dangerous form of mass destruction ever known to man as demonstrated by the total destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Talk of a limited nuclear war is utter folly. A nuclear war will be the end, the absolute end. Life as we know it will cease to exist. There will be no winners, only losers. Survivors will face terrifying competition for scarce resources among a world of widespread anarchy. The dead will be fortunate to escape the withered landscape without food, water and public safety. The arts will vanish as will sports and theater. Gone will be nights out with the family and shopping at the mall. Education, transportation and healthcare will grind to a halt. Is it worth losing humanity’s lifetime of stunning achievements for one impetuous mistake by a hot headed leader who demanded his way? Once a government leader gives the go ahead to drop the bomb, there’s no turning back. Every form of life from every part of the planet will suffer and eventually die. The Earth is the only planet we can call home. If we can’t save it who can? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said if we don’t live as brothers and I assume he meant as sister’s too, we’ll perish together as fools. Only we can prevent a nuclear holocaust caused either by accident or on purpose. Let all the nuclear weapons rust in peace. Take the toys from the boys. Not tomorrow, not the day after but now. Nuclear weapons do not make us safer but bring us closer to Armageddon.


Missing Ramadan

I Miss Ramadan Already

Ramadan, please don’t go away. I miss you already. For a month, I drove to the mosque for iftars, the breaking of the daily fast, followed by taraweeh or special prayers that lasted about two hours. Time at the mosque with my Muslim sisters became a routine that fulfilled, energized, uplifted, and renewed my soul. After prayers my faith grew deeper and stronger. I felt closer to Allah, asking again for forgiveness for mistakes of the past. Now, I would do more to spread peace and harmony as well as avoid gossip. Chit-chat can hurt others anyway and stain my character so I don’t need to do it.

At the mosque, sisters welcomed everyone, friends as well as guests. There was no difference among us even though we were a mixed group of Africans, Arabs, Persians, Asians, and Western converts. Islam united us all. Sisters dished up home-cooked meals to elderly or disabled women like me. Although children were sometimes pesky, they really were a delight to be around. School-age girls joined in prayer standing next to their moms. The little ones were an inspiration for the future and it’s our collective responsibility to teach them well so they mature into responsible adults as well as fine examples of our faith.

Conversation among us was always lively. No one was left out. Afterwards, everyone pitched in to clean up so the room was presentable for prayers. We pray five times a day. Prayer during Ramadan is especially sacred as well as personal.

On my nightly drive home, I dwelled on my growth since last year. Then, I was an outsider to Ramadan. I attended iftars at the mosque but never stayed for prayers. Why, I don’t know, but Islam drew me closer. I felt it every day. After Ramadan, I started attending Friday prayer services at the mosque and haven’t missed a service ever since. I became involved with the American Muslim Women’s Association. I read books about Islam. My foot was practically in the door. I finally said my Shahada, the declaration of faith, in February 2015 and went all the way. I clawed myself out of unhappiness, out of a deep funk, and landed in a community where I’m valued, wanted and needed nearly every day. My Muslim friends love me and I love them. Now I know why I survived the serious car accident of 1994.

Thank you to all the sisters (you know who you are) who guided me along my journey. Perhaps I can use my voice to explain that Islam isn’t the savage, brutal religion portrayed by the media. Indeed, there are Muslims who stray from our faith and commit despicable, heinous crimes against innocent men, women and children in Allah’s name. Not only have these misguided men and women opened up a path of wretched destruction against people, animals and the environment, they tarnish the image of good, upright and honest Muslims. The far right extremists seen almost daily on TV are far different from the Muslims who I’ve come to love and respect. These men and women showed me the goodness and mercy of Islam. They work, go to school, and perform community service. Surah 5 says God loves those who do good. Observant Muslims follow the Quran’s teachings and want the best for their families, their friends and their communities. If you peel back the truth buried by layers of cheap, nasty lies, you’ll see what I see too.